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How to clean suede shoes without ruining them

How to clean suede shoes
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you want to maintain your suede footwear style, you’ll need to know how to clean suede shoes without ruining them. 

This often happens when suede shoes are prone to weather damage, stains or general wear and tear over time. What’s more, the soft, ‘velvety’ nature of the material makes it easier to pick up grime, oils or dirt build-up, which can ruin the stylish feel and overall look of your suede shoes.

In any case, how to clean suede shoes without ruining them can be tricky if not done properly. Unlike knowing how to clean white shoes or how to remove oil stains from clothes, you can’t soak in soapy water or simply throw into the washing machine. In addition, you don’t want to risk making a stain or mark worse by scrubbing with the wrong cleaning products. 

Luckily, we’ve done the research and found the best way to safely clean suede shoes with just a few household items. In fact, it’s not that difficult to do, and only takes a few quick and easy steps. So if you want to keep your suede footwear looking sharp, here’s how to clean suede shoes.  

How to clean suede shoes in four steps

What you'll need

Suede brush or toothbrush

White vinegar

Suede eraser or rubber

Face flannel or microfibre cloth

Suede protector

1. First, use a suede brush or toothbrush to gently brush off any dirt or loose particles on the surface of the shoe. Use light brush strokes to brush in the same direction as the grain/pattern, and for stubborn grime, use a back-and-forth motion to gently remove set-in dirt. We recommend this Shacke Suede & Nubuck 4-Way Leather Brush Cleaner ($7, Amazon) to get rid of dirt. 

Suede brush to clean shoes

Suede brush to clean shoes (Image credit: Shutterstock)

2. Next up, rub out any stains or small marks with a suede eraser.  Gently rub back and forth over the mark, taking care not to rub too hard and scratching the material. This Colourlock Suede & Nubuck Eraser ($13, Amazon) is ideal for gently buffing away stains. 

3. If you’re tackling tough stains, clean with white vinegar. Take a flannel or microfiber cloth, dip in white vinegar and gently rub the stain. Be careful not to soak the surface with vinegar, just lightly dampen it.

Repeat until the stain is removed, then leave to dry before brushing the surface for a neat look. If you’re interested in the cleaning power of white vinegar check out what makes baking soda and white vinegar so good at cleaning. 

Suede eraser to remove marks on shoes

Suede eraser to remove marks on shoes (Image credit: Shutterstock)

4. Once the shoes are clean, apply a suede protector. Most suede protectors are pre-treated to resist stains or moisture so always go for a protector specifically formulated for suede. We can recommend Jak Snow's Magic Spray - Non toxic Suede & Nubuck Protector Spray ($14, Amazon) to spruce up your suede.  

Suede protector sprayed onto shoes

Suede protector sprayed onto shoes (Image credit: Shutterstock)

How to remove oil or grease stains from suede shoes

When you have an unfortunate grease stain on your shoes, it can be a nightmare. However, applying cornstarch to the area can soak up the grease and save the day! Simply leave the cornstarch on for a few hours before gently scraping off with a brush. Repeat until the stain has gone. 

For stubborn oil stains, leave dish soap on the area for about 10 minutes. Then rinse by blotting a damp cloth over the stain until all traces of soap (and stain) have gone. 

Cynthia Lawrence

Cynthia Lawrence specialises in Homes ecommerce, covering all things homes and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 


Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.


With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!